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Author Topic: 2008 NEC  (Read 2777 times)
loosenut
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2009, 10:42:43 PM »

Sean,

I know I'm not the brightest bulb so I may be missing the mark but I did a 10 min search before my earlier post.   All the statistics I saw were based on the NFIRS numbers.  The numbers broke down the fires by type.  Electrical distribution was one of the types but it included lights.  Again if I understood correctly, electrical distribution including lightbulbs only contributed for 1% of the casualties.  I would be willing to bet substantial money that most of the 1% was due to hot light bulbs being too close to combustable material.

The homeland security report broke down the numbers without an electrical distribution category in its 100%.  It includes other types of electrical fires, cookstoves, dryers and such.

I don't understand why you think I'm against codes.  I'm against dufus requirements not codes.  I've owned several homes built before codes.  I owned one that didn't have indoor plumbing and was wired with extension cords from the fuse box to the outlets.  I fixed what was needed and left the rest.

Before the NFPA copyright suit I would have agreed with you that they were interested in safety.  Since then it looks like they have been more concerned with power and money.  Nonprofit but that doesn't mean they don't make lots of money. 

I worked for a company that gave themselves to a college because they could make more money as a nonprofit.  They just didn't call the money profit. 

You have a wider experience than I do.  Have you ever seen an arc?  Do they matter in this day and age of fire retardation. 

I don't think the nation should pay for the installation and upkeep of GFIs and ARCs for the nebulous .0001% of the population.

Mike

PS It was a pun.
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« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2009, 02:25:41 AM »

Sean,

Good info on the the number of fires started due to electrical problems. I attended a Fred McPartland NEC code course years ago, and several lead by other instructors since. No one could convey the material quite like Fred.
He had several articles which the fire company indicated "The origin of the fire was unknown, Deemed it to be started electrical in nature"

Two other building fires were again blamed on "electrical problems", later confirmed that the electrical service for those exact buildings had been shut off two months prior.   Roll Eyes

His point was communicated with hyperbole, and the morbid fact if you are an electrical contractor, engineer, bldg mgr, be very wary as to your back...

BTW, I support the new safety devices and protective apparel. For 32 years I have designed, installed, strarted up, and maintained high voltage (up to 138KV) transformers and associated distibution equipment. I knew the hazards of the exposure present and the new rules will better our business. Maybe I have been lucky, maybe good living, maybe I just never made a mistake.

Gary
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« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2009, 07:32:20 AM »

I know I'm not the brightest bulb so I may be missing the mark but I did a 10 min search before my earlier post.   All the statistics I saw were based on the NFIRS numbers.  The numbers broke down the fires by type.  Electrical distribution was one of the types but it included lights.  Again if I understood correctly, electrical distribution including lightbulbs only contributed for 1% of the casualties.  I would be willing to bet substantial money that most of the 1% was due to hot light bulbs being too close to combustable material.


OK, for starters, let me apologize for being overly harsh in my earlier response.  Thank you for calling attention to the research you have done.

For anyone following along, NFIRS (National Fire Incident Reporting System) is a database maintained by FEMA.

There are some problems with using NFIRS statistics to talk about electrical safety.  For starters, the statistics there are only for structure fires.  While structure fires are more likely to involve death or serious injury, they do not comprise the majority of all fires, many of which do not progress to "structurally involved."  Being a disaster responder myself, I know how FEMA thinks (if you can call it that) and what they track, and their interest is not prevention or life safety but rather response and recovery.

Another problem with NFIRS statistics is that they capture only those incidents that are subject to reporting.  Again, many fires do not meet this threshold.  Moreover, the data is only gathered once -- at incident response.  So there are a huge number of fires that get entered into the system as "cause unknown", many of which are actually attributed to a root cause later on.

Lastly, the way this database characterizes root causes, fires started electrically in appliances would be characterized as appliance fires, in heating equipment as heating fires, etc.; only fires that start in the "distribution system" fall into the category you cite as being about 1%. Remember that overload current (or electrical arcs, for that matter) is actually more likely to start a fire in or near utilization equipment than in part of the distribution.  Many arc-induced fires are reported as "other: spark."

The data are so loose, in fact, that FEMA warns they are inconclusive and should not be used for decision-making.  To make sense of all the information requires some digesting and further analysis.

The seminal work in this area is "The U.S. Fire Problem Overview Report: Leading Causes and Other Patterns and Trends" by M. Ahrens published in 2003.  Unfortunately, I no longer have access to this document to quote anything reliable.  Also, this is published (as are many fire safety studies) by the NFPA, whom you seem to distrust; I'm not sure how to get around that.

Quote
I don't understand why you think I'm against codes.


Because you wrote "I don't understand why it would be required for all of America adopt.  It doesn't provide one bit more protection for the average person."

Perhaps I misunderstood you, but that seems to be a blanket statement condemning the requirement for an electrical code outside of institutional use.  You did not limit your statement to specific provisions of the code with which you might disagree

I can assure you that if there were no codes whatsoever, then builders would do whatever was cheapest, not safest, and so would many homeowners and hired repair contractors.  I have been to countries that enforce few or no building codes, and it is downright scary.

One can argue pros and cons for many individual provisions of any code.  As I wrote earlier, it is a delicate balancing act.  As hard as it is for safety advocates to swallow, there are many potentially life-saving technologies that are simply deemed too expensive to be justified.  So, yes, there are some number of lives that we all agree are not worth the cost to save.  For example, someone here has mentioned residential fire sprinklers.  There is absolutely no question that these would save thousands of lives and billions in property, not to mention response costs.  But so far, most agencies have felt that the cost this would add to a home would put homes that much further out of reach for so many people that it is a poor tradeoff.

Quote
...
Before the NFPA copyright suit I would have agreed with you that they were interested in safety.  Since then it looks like they have been more concerned with power and money.  Nonprofit but that doesn't mean they don't make lots of money. 


The fact that they defend their intellectual property (IP) aggressively does not, by itself, make them more interested in money than safety.  Like any organization, they need to protect their source of funds, and they also need to ensure that they retain editorial control of IP that can be attributed back to them.

I also aggressively defend my own IP, even though I do not make a dime from it today.

The NFPA is a completely open and transparent organization.  Anyone can join, and anyone can get on a committee.  Like many such organizations, its operations are governed by bylaws and articles of organization, and its leadership is openly elected through democratic process.

It should also be noted that the NFPA is not a regulatory body.  No state or municipality is forced to use anything they publish.  And yet every state has adopted the NEC (and many other NFPA documents) as law, because, on balance, they have done an outstanding job.

Quote
You have a wider experience than I do.  Have you ever seen an arc?  Do they matter in this day and age of fire retardation.


Yes and yes.  As I wrote earlier, the problems AFCIs will address are a minute fraction of situations.  But that's like saying that sudden decompression is a minute fraction of all aviation failures, so we shouldn't bother with oxygen masks on planes, or that sinking is a minute fraction (nowadays) of all maritime passenger vessel accidents, so we shouldn't bother with requiring lifeboats or life vests.  All of these things are true, yet few argue we should do away with aircraft or vessel safety equipment.

Quote
I don't think the nation should pay for the installation and upkeep of GFIs and ARCs for the nebulous .0001% of the population.
...
PS It was a pun.


Sadly, there are many who would agree with this statement, no pun intended.

-Sean
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« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2009, 08:17:08 AM »

How many homes burn that are older and don't meet even the 1999 NEC versus new homes built to the 1999 NEC (Before the requirements for AFCIs)?  My brother lives in a development of homes all built in 1999 or 2000 and one of them did burn (I don't know cause.) a few years back, but that is very very rare.  Most fires around here are in the inner city or occasionally the first ring suburbs where teh homes are older.

It seems that the NFPA is responding to fires that happen in older poorly wired homes by making the requirements for new homes stricter and stricter.  But, if those older homes had met current codes (minus AFCIs) they probably wouldn't have burned anyhow.

We would probably be better served by requiring wiring upgrades in older homes, but government can't do that and any proposal to do so would probably be political suicide.
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« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2009, 08:45:33 AM »

There are homes that still have knob-and-tube (just as there are still homes with asbestos tiles or lead paint).  There is little that can be done to make such older homes safer absent a burning desire by the occupants to do so.

That said, codes can be applied retroactively when upgrades are done.  Many jurisdictions today require panels to be upgraded before significant additions can be built, for example.

Currently, there is a recommendation (but no requirement) to retrofit AFCIs into older structures whenever possible.  Within a few years, I would expect to see code agencies starting to require AFCI retrofit any time circuits or outlets are added.

As you have already observed, AFCIs are actually of more benefit in older installations than they are in modern code-compliant construction, because older wiring and devices are more prone to arcing.  That said, arcs can and do occur even in brand new installations.

-Sean
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« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2009, 08:55:34 AM »

What you guys are talking about is "regulatory creep" and it happens everywhere.  Regulators regulate - that's what they do.  They get up in the morning, go to meetings and there is always something that could be made "safer".  Whether it makes sense to make a given improvement in the broad societal context is a question that we are ill equipped to answer.
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Sean
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« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2009, 09:07:00 AM »

What you guys are talking about is "regulatory creep" and it happens everywhere.  Regulators regulate - that's what they do.  They get up in the morning, go to meetings and there is always something that could be made "safer".  Whether it makes sense to make a given improvement in the broad societal context is a question that we are ill equipped to answer.


Well said, Bob.

Few of us would want to live in the sort of anarchy that would come from no laws at all, and few of us would want to live in a totalitarian state, either.  Most of us prefer the middle ground, and probably each of us falls on a different and distinct spot on the spectrum in between.

A somewhat different but related notion is that most of us are in favor of regulating the other guy, and few of us are in favor of being regulated ourselves.  Put another way, most folks think they know the right way to do things for themselves, but don't trust others to do things the right way when called upon.

-Sean
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« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2009, 09:26:39 AM »

Sean,

I was involved with a building project during the NFPA crackdown.  NFPA sold their codes to government organizations.

For years they sold these books.  For just as long the buyers changed the codes to fit situations. 

Similar to termites undermining a structure over the years the code books undermined local abilities.  Why have a staff to write codes?  It was easier and cheaper to adapt the codes from the book.  It was easy to change a few words to fit the local needs and Viola...codes.

The processes needed to write codes atrophied.  Here was an organization a 'partner if you will' doing the heavy lifting. 

The crackdown completely blindsided the code department I used.  The oldtimers felt betrayed because they provided information, support and departmental access to a partner organization not a tyrant.

That was my 2nd hand experience with the NFPA; the people who dealt with NFPA thought them dishonest, or to pun BOTN regulatory creeps.

Not against codes.  Against stupid rules.  I don't think the time or money spent on these devices is warranted.  Don't have them in my bus.

Mike
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« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2009, 11:20:27 AM »

On the subject of sprinklering residential structures -  when the NFPA allowed the use of CPVC in residential dwellings I thought the use of sprinklers in residential structures would take off - At the time my net cost of installation for M & L was less than $2.00 sq.ft. - But by the time you got through with Engineering, Permitting (building and fire), the speciality valves/alarms/etc., and increased meter/supply sizes to accommodate max flow rate for min. head pressure,  along with the fact you had to use a state licen$ed installer, my installation costs quadrupled - At 2 0r 3 dollars a sq.ft. and a decent discount provided by the insurance company's for structures so equipped, the up front cost could be recouped in a fairly short period while saving how many lives and injuries (occupants and fire fighters), monetary costs, not to mention tax savings by necessitating fewer fire responders and fire houses. This, IMHO, is where the code writers and regulators are actually a hindrence to safety. FWIW
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« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2009, 12:11:55 PM »

...
Similar to termites undermining a structure over the years the code books undermined local abilities.  Why have a staff to write codes?  It was easier and cheaper to adapt the codes from the book.  It was easy to change a few words to fit the local needs and Viola...codes.

The processes needed to write codes atrophied.  Here was an organization a 'partner if you will' doing the heavy lifting. 

The crackdown completely blindsided the code department I used.  The oldtimers felt betrayed because they provided information, support and departmental access to a partner organization not a tyrant.


OK, first off, let me say that I am not particularly an NFPA apologist; I'm not even a member.

But the argument you make (or the "old timers" made) does go both ways.

Having a national organization developing codes that are then adopted on a local level -- and this happens in all trades, so the NFPA is by no means unique: plumbing, framing, roofing, all have codes written by others -- has many advantages over each jurisdiction "rolling their own."  And, of course, local code officials (and their respective trade organizations) have significant representation in the NFPA (and similar bodies), so they are by no means "out of the loop."

The most apparent advantage is cost, as you've written.  But more systemic is training and best practice.  An electrician trained and apprenticed in say, Michigan can work fairly easily in, say, Texas, with only a minimal amount of re-training.  The same thing can be said for code inspectors, fire marshals, etc.  Beyond that is resources; a small jurisdiction with a handful of staff can't possibly keep up with the panoply of changes and improvements in best practice across the whole gamut of building trades, and their code base would suffer as a result.

There are advantages the other way, to be sure, including potentially more local knowledge, as you've written.  That's partially offset by the notion that, with a commonly accepted set of standards, when local knowledge about them is lacking, you can ask someone from the next town or next state.

Lastly, I put almost no stock in the grumblings of people whose jobs may have been eliminated or whose authority was preempted by the adoption of common codes written by deliberative bodies, as they clearly have axes to grind.  It is only natural for them to accentuate the problems and downplay the benefits.

I don't agree with every provision in the NEC, just as I don't agree with every traffic law.  But I don't want to live in a world where everyone takes it upon himself to decide which rules are OK to break.  The NEC (or the UBC, or the UPC, or any other comprehensive code) is not perfect, but it is, IMO, an acceptable compromise.

As an engineer, safety professional, responder, and now a member of this forum whose advice is often relied upon by others, it would be irresponsible for me to suggest that any part of the code can be "safely ignored," no matter what my personal opinion on any specific item might be.

As for AFCI's in bus conversions, you are not required to have them nor would I recommend them for this application (at the current state of the art).  GFCIs are another matter entirely; they are required by code, but more importantly they are a proven and inexpensive safety item, and I personally think anyone would be foolish to omit them.

-Sean
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